Two years later, the makeshift crosses and hand-painted signs still line the small lot where Philando Castile was pulled over by a police officer and quickly shot and killed.
On Friday, the night of the second anniversary of his death, Castile’s family and friends will hold a candlelight vigil among the homespun monuments on the quiet corner near the northern entrance to the State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights.
That vigil will be followed Saturday with a community barbecue organized by the Castile family, to be held at City Hall on Larpenteur Avenue, less than a mile west of the shooting site.
Organizers hope the commemorations will bring some peace and solace while encouraging people to meet and talk with one another.
“My son brought people together last year at this unity picnic right here on these grounds,” Castile’s mother, Valerie, told the City Council. “So many people of different walks of life came and danced and celebrated together. My son is moving mountains and even through this horrific event, he’s making people come together.”
The shooting was recorded by Castile’s girlfriend, who was with him in the car, and posted live online. It showed him bleeding in the car while Officer Jeronimo Yanez held them at gunpoint. It was viewed millions of times around the world and helped touch off widespread outrage and protests over police killings of black men.
Yanez, who was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter and two other felony charges, was an officer with the St. Anthony Police. Falcon Heights had contracted with St. Anthony for police services but ended the contract after the shooting and instead hired the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
The Falcon Heights City Council this spring named July 6 as “Restoration Day” and July 7 as “Unity Day” in the city. The plan is for those two days to become a living memorial for Castile, said Melanie Leehy, the council member who proposed the idea.
“The city needed to officially acknowledge the tragedy,” Leehy said. “It will take more than a verbal acknowledgment, of course. But we needed to acknowledge it.”
As it did last year, the city will provide the space for Saturday’s barbecue, which will run from 5 to 8:30 p.m. The food, music, speakers and other events will be organized and paid for by volunteers helping Castile’s family, and a nonprofit foundation that was formed in his honor.